February 24, 2022 – Update and Action Alert 2021 AB 122 / SB 201: “Micro Education Pods”

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Yesterday, Wednesday February 23, 2022, the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Education held a public hearing to hear testimony about several proposed education bills, including SB 201 / AB 122, which would create “micro education pods” in Wisconsin. Members of the WHPA Board of Directors testified in person in opposition to this bill. You can view the hearing in full on the Wisconsin Eye website by following this link and registering for a free account: https://wiseye.org/2022/02/23/senate-committee-on-education-38/ (note: the SB 201 portion is the very first part and this video will go behind a paywall 24 hours after its posting)

You can read the testimony of WHPA Board members by clicking on this link, on the Wisconsin Legislature website: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/misc/lc/hearing_testimony_and_materials/2021/sb201/sb0201_2022_02_23.pdf. WHPA testimony primarily focused on helping the senators understand the important legal problem that would be created by “micro-education pods,” as written: this proposal degrades and undermines our inherent parental rights. Public, private, and tribal schools derive the right to educate children through the state. Only homeschools derive their right to educate children through the inherent right of parents to educate their own children. “Micro education pods” attempt to transfer that inherent right of parents to anyone who opens one of these new unregulated private schools. There is no legal mechanism by which a private school can exercise parental rights. If AB 122 or SB 201 were passed and signed into law, Wisconsin families would be dragged back into the legal morass that plagued both homeschooling parents and private school owners before our current homeschooling law was passed in 1984. WHPA also reminded the senators that our current homeschooling law works for Wisconsin families, and already allows for great flexibility while respecting our parental rights.

One private school advocate testified in support of the bill. He reminded the Committee of the painful past homeschool and private school families suffered under our vague education laws before WHPA founders helped legislators craft our current law. One private business owner testified in person for the creation of microschools. The majority of her testimony was in support of small private schools like hers, which already operate under our current private school law. Her primary complaints about our current law referred not to the definition of private schools, but to local zoning rules and ordinances that apply to residential districts, and which this proposal would not change. Her testimony did not address the underlying legal problem the proposal would create by eroding parental rights.

One currently-homeschooling student also testified in opposition. Having young people show up in person and testify so compellingly that our current homeschool law works for them and for their family is incredibly powerful, and was well received by the legislators. Several other currently-homeschooling students and their parents registered in person in opposition to the bill. This kind of in-person expression of support for our current law is also powerful, and was recognized by the committee.

The committee did not take any executive action yesterday, and as of this writing, there is still only one sponsor for this bill in the senate. The next action will be a vote by the Senate Committee on Education to either table the bill (which essentially kills the bill for the remainder of this legislative session) or pass the bill. If the committee votes to pass the bill, it then moves to the Senate Rules Committee for scheduling, and finally to the Senate as a whole for a vote.

Lastly, we apologize for the error in our action alert which listed an incorrect phone number for Senator Darling’s office.

Because things are moving very fast in the legislature right now, WHPA is asking you to reach out NOW to your senator, and tell them to vote NO on the passage of SB 201. A phone call is worth at least 10 emails, so please take a few minutes to make that call. The more calls that Senators receive from homeschoolers opposing SB 201, the more our voice is heard. You can find your senator’s contact information here: https://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/?single=y or https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2021/legislators/senate.

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